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Archive for April, 2023

Done Saving for MM College?

April 24th, 2023 at 11:34 pm

MM(19) sorted out his housing, as I expected he probably would.  He was just being a little too *chill* for my liking.  While I worked on the backup plans for the backup plans.  But he had a few irons in the fire and I was giving it some time before I dove in too deep.  So it ended up taking very little time or mental energy on my part.

He found this rental the day after the RA position news.  But then he hit a red tape brick wall with the management company.  It took about 10 days but they finally let him apply.  (In the interim, I had given up on this option.)  He let me know Friday night that he had signed the lease.  

It was the Goldilocks option, as to price.  Not the most ideal situation overall.  But certainly could be worse.  Was otherwise considering a $500/month "job on campus" living option (that was problematic on multiple fronts) and a $1,500/month room.  Ended up in the middle.  He won't need a car, and it has a kitchen.  So these are all pluses.  I found a rental last week and then later realized it didn't even have a kitchen.  So I started wondering if that might be a sacrifice (which could end up being costly re: food costs).  But being able to not have a car is probably the biggest savings factor.   

Would prefer to just live on campus another year, but they have very few spots for juniors/seniors.  I mean like 500 spots for 10,000 students?  Something like that.  & they maybe also reserve some housing for transfer students.  

Wait.  Does this mean we are done saving for MM(19)'s college!?  With this rent locked in and knowing it will be so much easier the following year (with an earlier start)?

My first instinct is that I want to keep saving for the "crap happens" factor.  The obvious that comes to mind is if we do get stuck with this (whole) lease for any long period of time.  If the roommate backs out for any reason.  Stuff like that.  In addition to all the other infinite ways that crap can happen.

When this day did come, I thought I may take a breather before circling to finish off DL(17)'s college costs.  But now that I am here...  I will just keep saving, for whatever kid might need it.  I just want to be *done* so that we can move on to other things. I think DL(17)'s college costs are well covered.  But he is also my wildcard.  More likely to take longer, to drastically change plans later (finish school out of state), to drop out.  I don't know.  

So my first instinct is to just keep saving for whoever needs it. 

Then I remembered that MM(19) has a whole other round of ortho, plus surgery.  Should probably keep saving for that.  It's not college, but it's one last thing before he is self sufficient.  It kind of gets wrapped up in this ball of final costs (mostly college) before we are done financially supporting him.

I will ponder all this more as I formulate 2024 goals in December.  If it wasn't for the whole ortho factor, I'd probably just start a "for whoever needs it" college top off fund.   But I expect I will probably be leaning towards some more MM(19) savings first.

Not ready to call it yet, but getting very close!


April 23rd, 2023 at 03:45 pm

I had a week off work with absolutely nothing planned.  My expectations were pretty low (that it would be peaceful).  It ended up being a mix of some peaceful days and some challenging days.  & a bomb was dropped on me re: work.  Ugh.  Another post for another day.

I did make it to my other happy place (above).  This was a neighborhood in San Francisco, where my friend lived during our college years.  Another little slice of paradise. 

I hadn't even realized until my week off, but...  MH could take some time off with me!  What a difference it makes, to not have to wait until 4:00 until the kids are chauffered.  It was a "the kid has a driver license" benefit I hadn't realized.  So we did do one day in San Francisco.  We went to an art museum, ate at a fancy restaurant with a beach view (enjoyed watching the kite surfers) and went for a sunset hike. 

We had bought a more premium museum membership in 2020, to help out the museum during the pandemic.  & figured we'd maybe get more use out of that during these college years (expecting to be more frugal/pinched).  The premium membership has reciprocal membership with other museums.  This was the first time we had used our local museum membership for free admittance to another museum.  But I don't expect much the rest of this year.  We have too many plans already for this year.

I expect the whole "kid driver license" thing is why we have had so many weekend trips already this year.  It's just easier to say yes to things.  I hadn't really thought about it before, but clearly we are enjoying the extra freedom.

1,660 FREE Miles

April 18th, 2023 at 02:01 pm

I had fallen behind on keeping track of fuel costs in Quicken.  So I finally went back and got that (2022) all cleaned up.  Which wasn't a big chore because I have done a good job keeping track in my blog.  But I wanted to re-calculate monthly numbers in terms of how the electric bill sorted out every month.  Like my monthly blog estimates, it's all just a rough estimate.  But I keep track of car fuel costs versus home electricity costs.

I realized that I don't think I've ever added up all the free miles we get in a year.  But I expect that 2022 was particularly unusual.  I found a free charger by the animal shelter (had a few free 100 mile charges) and then we were surprised with free fuel *twice* when driving MM(19) to or from college.  That was 1,000 miles of free charge.  The rest were free charges here and there.

Grand Total = 1,660 free miles in 2022

That really was without trying very hard.  We just stumbled upon 1,000 of those free miles.

For point of reference, I have numbers from 2017 (our last gas car year) versus 2022:


$870 minivan gas ~ 3,000 miles

$1,341 gas sipper gas ~ 14,000 miles

$2,211 Total Fuel Costs 2017



$297 Hybrid fuel ~ 8,176 miles

$346 EV fuel ~ 12,200 miles

$503 Other Fuel Costs (Rental gas & kids' car gas)

$1,146 Total Fuel Costs 2022


$1,065 fuel savings 2017 versus 2022.  I'll take it!

Of course, with rising gas prices and other factors, our overall savings is much more substantial than this. 

2022 was a weird year in that I paid that $156 fuel for the gas rental car.  & we also paid for gas on the kids' car for at least 8 months of the year.  (We just didn't pay for the gas when MM was home during summer months, and after DL got his license at the end of the year).  That's $500 in fuel costs that I do not expect to pay in 2023.  Or $1,500 savings in a more average year.

& of course, we replaced our 14yo minivan with the hybrid, when I doubled my commute.  Rough math is that my commute is 9,000 miles per year and would have cost $1,800 gas in the minivan.  With the EV, I mostly only drive the hybrid for my commute.  (Any extra driving would probably be on gas, so I take the EV as much as possible in those instances, keeping our household driving mostly electric.) & of course, I only drove the hybrid 8,000 miles in 2022 because it was in the shop for the last 6 weeks of the year.  Anyway, this is an additional $1,000 per year gas savings.

Taxes: Note to Self

April 17th, 2023 at 02:01 pm

I was so pleasantly surprised how low overall our taxes were last year (with MH working full year, with my raise and bonus, etc.) that I never noticed that we had graduated out of the 12% tax rate.  😵  Which also means...  No more 0% tax on investments.

Which means...  I need some time wrap my brain around that and actually think about taxes when it comes to investments.  We've been spoiled for so long.

I went back and looked more closely because I thought maybe it was just the investments (I sold a lot of investments last year).  In the end, taxable income was $89K and that only included about $3K of investment income.    The rest is pretty simple.  Mostly just salaries and the standard deduction.  (Though we will obviously have a lot more bank interest in 2023.) With our (more than 3%) raises this year, we are clearly in a new tax bracket.  22%.

It's going to get nasty with the I Bonds.  Tax-free if used for "college tuition".  Not going to be tax-free re: our very low tuition costs.  So that's one more tax thing I will have to think about and plan around.  I had wanted to use the I Bond money for college rent.  But it might make the most sense to just consider the I Bonds our emergency fund, so that we can then tap more accessible cash (without any tax consequences).

I will also have to reconsider utilizing my work 401K.  If we are really close re: hitting the next tax bracket and losing 0%-tax investment space.  It might be worth throwing a few thousand dollars into a 401K if it gets us back to tax-free investments.  Will just have to see how the year shakes out.

Another note to self:  

First ~$13K of earned income is tax-free for the kids.  Have been having them claim exempt.  In the end, MM(19) made $6,000 in 2022.  What I didn't think about was that only $5,200 of CA wages are exempt (single standard deduction).  MM(19) ended up owing $3 to California.  I suppose he can continue to claim exempt for Federal.  (Can do so if prior year and current year are both $0 tax years).  But technically is no longer able to claim exempt (California) because he paid $3 tax for 2022.  Will have to keep an eye on that.  DL(17) is more likely to just work something like 15 hours per week year round, so he will probably start piling up the dough pretty quickly.  Will have to have him submit a separate California W4. 

I appreciated that we realized this without a big tax bill to pay! 

Taxes Almost Done, and Other Challenges

April 16th, 2023 at 01:54 pm

Waiting, waiting, waiting...  Feels like absolutely anything and everything is delayed.  RA decisions were delayed, because of course.  All of these film festivals keep delaying...  & then I was thinking that I hope financial aid isn't delayed for several months again, this year.   Last year MM's internship took forever to sort out.  I am stressed about college housing (the longer we delay the harder it will be) and it would be nice to have any clue what financial aid situation is before...  January?  The rest is just annoying.  But it's a *lot* of annoying.  MH was literally just telling me some film thing was delayed 2 months.  He's waiting to hear for the last? film festival, but they've already delayed several times.  I don't know why all these organizations keep pushing back 1-2 weeks, and then doing that like 10 times.  They are driving me crazy!  

We did do our first big road trip in the EV, to LA.  950 miles roundtrip.  This trip was easy peasy.  It was only 160 miles from our hotel (near college town) to LA hotel.  Which made our first *big* drive very *shrugs*.  We've done the 600 mile college roundtrip several times already.  We took our time on the way down and spent 3 days.  Every morning we were able to start with a full charge (hotel chargers). 500 miles down the 101.  We took I-5 back (Sunday) which was more direct (only 400 miles).  But there are far less EA and EVGo charging options on the I-5.  Still, we didn't look for any other chargers and it worked out.  (No extra stops required.  We were able to charge to 100% at our hotel for free, for the big drive home.  We just stopped to charge while we ate and took one charge/pit stop.) Out of curiosity, I just looked up other chargers.  As I expected, there's some gas station chargers along the route.  & we missed a free rest stop charger.  It's another post for another day.  

The trip went as smooth as possible.  Phew!  I really appreciate it.  Because life has been a whirlwind of crazy lately.  And also, the last couple of LA trips I had planned were canceled.  So I feel like it was a miracle we even made it.  Even moreso that it was such a peaceful trip.  But we did have one snafu.  MH's car fob battery died without any warning.  I did not bother to bring my keys, but he did have both our car keys.  So we just switched out the batteries.  Problem solved.  Phew!  

& the drive was absolutely spectacular.  After all the storms, everything is so green and vibrant.  & the beginning of the superblooms, etc.  

The picture above is from a beach near MM's college.  It is one of my happy places.  I had been there several times before, but we hiked in a different direction towards the wildflowers this time.  The landscape was otherwordly at many of these beaches.

Work is...  Ugh!  I don't even know where to begin with that.  This week should have been the hump.  Done with all the tax deadlines and should be quiet the rest of the year.  But I can't get any peace and so I couldn't even get a relaxing weekend before the next very large obstacle.  Another post for another day.  I am more irritated about the timing than anything.  The whole situation is forseeable and overall I feel more prepared now than I ever would have in the past.  So I can appreciate that.  Lord knows *why* the bomb couldn't have just been dropped on my *after* my quiet week off.  Or... why couldn't it just wait another month?  Give me one quiet month before it all goes to heck!? 

{I am taking this week off work.  Because it's the first week I could reasonably do so, ideally without coming back to a mess.}

In other news, MM(19) did not get the RA position.  Decisions came out late, as I mentioned.  It's terrible, as I imagined it would be.  When we visited MM(19) last Friday it sounded like he had a few housing options.  But none of those have panned out.  On the flip side, I had to figure this out alone during my college years (no adults helping me) and so I know it will work out.  I have backup plans for the backup plans.  I mean, I didn't go to school in a college town.  That part is particularly challenging.  But I know worst case, he has to buy a car and will find something further off campus.  (Is not ideal for his school situation, but is what I did and the rent is significantly cheaper this way.)  The RA applicant (parents) have been getting advice from other parents that it will work out, it just won't be ideal.  I *feel* this very much right now, after a week of apartment hunting.  I suppose our other advantage is having money to throw at the problem.  This is just the most out of my comfort zone and wheelhouse, of everything going on right now.  

And...  It's down to the wire with taxes.  I am breaking this out into two posts and will do my more financial post next.  & will get into why I did our taxes so late this year.  But then there's everyone else's taxes.  GMIL's taxes are complicated and terrible.  Because of her scammy brokerage situation.  So I have to wait a long time to make sure I have everything (her 1000 pages of investment 1099s), and then we went to LA last weekend.  & I've been putting out fires every night this week.  So here we are.  I procrastinated most of yesterday but it wasn't as terrible as I remember.  Maybe even finished in a few hours.  Phew!  Have to help her get her taxes paid, but at least her taxes are filed.

& then doing the in-laws' taxes.  This is new this year.  Thankfully, their taxes are easy peasy.  I appreciate that, especially because they have the same scammy broker situation.  But apparently most of that is in IRAs.  Phew!  I am doing their taxes because FIL can no longer handle (dementia).  I really thought I'd put them on extension and never in a million years expected I'd have everything.  But I seem to have everything, by some miracle.  (I think the first time FIL handed me the tax file, it had absolutely no paperwork for 2022 taxes.  & I've been too busy to look at it since whenever he actually gave me the 2022 file.)  It was a lot more work for the first time set up, but these will be easy peasy taxes in the future.

I am waiting to hear back from the in-laws before I finalize.  So unfortunately all this tax stuff is bleeding into my vacation time.  But I can appreciate that 99% of the work is done. 

Edited to add:  Taxes done.  Yay!  I was just feeling cranky about spending Saturday and half of Sunday wrapping up everyone else's taxes.  But I under-estimated how good it would feel to get that done and have literally nothing on my plate for a half day.  Everything else is on "ignore".  I am enjoying vacation mode.


March '23 Savings

April 15th, 2023 at 02:06 pm

Received $116 bank interest 

Received $246 I Bond interest 


Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $49 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $68 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $3 cash back on dining out/gas card 


Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $6 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)


TOTAL: $126 Snowflakes to Investments


401k Contributions/Match:



Snowball to Savings/Investments:

+$1,500 MH Income


Savings (from my paycheck):

+$  250 to investments

+$1,000 to cash (mid-term savings)

-$   315 Misc. Big Purchases

-$2,300  College Tuition 

-$1,000  Tree Trimming 


Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

-$  524 Car Maintenance (Hybrid)

-$  330 Dentist (x2)

-$  275 San Francisco Weekend

-$   263 DMV Renewal (Hybrid)

-$    78 Pest Control

-$    42 Backup Battery (VOIP)


TOTAL: $566 Deposited to Cash and Investments



Hybrid Miles Driven:  812

Fuel Costs: $20 Electricity 

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)


Electric (EV) Miles Driven: 716

Fuel Costs: $10 (home) + $2 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)

Most charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.

We did 85 miles of free charging this month.

We did one Bay Area trip.  40 free miles of charging (in-laws' new charger) and $2 charging at a fast charger.  That would have been unnecessary but we left for a test drive and to show the in-laws some things with their new car and didn't want to leave the garage door open.  We have a plastic cord passthrough that we put under our garage door when we charge outside and so I have since bought a couple of more.  Will plan to keep one in MH's car and will give one to the in-laws. 

I suppose we gave the in-laws ~100 miles of charge when they drove up here for St Patty's Day.  I will just consider that a gift.  It's not our driving.  But I will have to ponder how I want to account for that, because I don't want it to skew our electric utility (financial tracking). I'll probably carve out that 100 miles (x kWh rate) as a gift.  Or longer term maybe it will just even out.  

We did also go to a show downtown and got 45 free miles.


Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in February will be paid off March 1 and reflected in my March numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings).  So this update reflects February spending & March savings.

The big expense was trimming several trees in our yard.  Mostly we have one bigger tree and then there is our neighbor's monster tree.  Long overdue to trim that back.  We paid very little last time.  Person I found this round was more expensive, but I think they did a *lot* more work.  I think last time was more "get that tree off my tree" while this guy trimmed everything back to the fence line, including the entire height of neighbor monster tree.  It should last a little bit longer.  

I am in nesting mode.  Does this happen when your kids turn 18?  I couldn't tell you why.  Maybe some combo of having some breather and also feeling flush financially.  Maybe also emerging from a long winter.  It's just a little deja vu to the pregnancy nesting.

We did our last free timeshare stay in February?  Who knows...  MIL has been wishy washy about everything financial, and that is now extending to their timeshares.  At first they told us we could not use for our LA trip this month because they had canceled everything.  But now they want to extend a year.  We were so happy they were wrapping up this timeshare mess (do not want to inherit) and so are not thrilled that they are prolonging.  MH has been very clear about his feelings, but they insist they aren't keeping it for us.  (Lord knows what the actual truth is.)  It's moot for April LA trip because we already made plans.  If not for all this, we would have stayed at the usual free place and done some extra driving.  But we had already wrapped our minds around staying closer to our destination and paying for the hotel.  & because we don't want to encourage them and had very little notice, I expect we will go over our vacation budget this year.  Just mentioning because just one more thing on the $$$$ side.  (We don't have any big plans, but it all adds up a lot faster when you have to pay for every hotel stay.)  

I did not sweep any of MH's income to investments this month.  Hear me out.  My goal is (was) to sweep everything above $1K per month (MH income) into investments.  When I received MH's last check of the month I was preparing to sweep $500 into investments.  Cash is at $7,000 (projected 4/30, after big expenses.  This does not include emergency funds or funds earmarked for college). It was stressing me out more at the beginning of the year (after big mortgage paydown) when cutting it close.  But having $7,000 left after some major expenses...  Things are progressing nicely and I am happy to resume bulking up investments. 

But...  I am pondering a big expense and getting a quote in April.  Will see how that shakes out before I start committing bigger dollars to long-term investments.   Happy to say that investments are increasing rapidly, regardless.  It took me one year to invest $2K (with snowflakes).  It's going much faster with the $250/month we are contributing from my paycheck, plus snowflakes.

2023 is going to be an expensive year.